Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Some Jallikattu, if I may…

January 15, 2017

Its been a long time since one blogged… So a big Hi first, how have you been, and a Very Happy Maattu Pongal to all!

I was listening to an old recording of Swami Akhandananda’s discourses… (He was a great sage of Brindavan… A rare combination of a shrotriya [master of Veda-Shastra] and a Brahmanishtta [a Self-Realized Sage])…. Swamiji mentioned an interesting point about Dharma… He said that Dharma gives one a certain latitude to non-conform as well.

For eg, take the festival of Holi. It is well known that on that day many people indulge in Bhaang and other herbal-highs… On the day of Holi, such indulgence has been permitted in tradition… On days other than Holi, it is not. It is not even legal, one presumes. Supreme Court wouldn’t hear of it I am sure. But on that one day, the law just looks the other way – and perhaps winks.

Or take Diwali (Deepavali)… On Diwali night, many people offer Lakshmi Puja by gambling the whole night! That is the tradition… On other days, the same people would (mostly) refrain from gambling….

Now, these ‘exception’ days, act as a safety-valve of a pressure cooker. That one day of diversion, allows the adrenalin in man an outlet… And keeps him in bounds of mainstream law on other days… That is the way the traditional society manages emotional needs of man… Rather than putting a blanket ban, give a controlled exception… Have some plasticity… Make the structure earthquake-proof (by giving that “play’ in the foundation)… It is to keep the overall structure of society within bounds of Dharma that some exceptions are permitted in tradition, when a person can non-conform…

Ok now… Take a deep breath… This whole brouhaha about Jallikattu.

Here is what DrikPanchang says about the festival today – called “Maattu Pongal” (Pongal of Cows)…

“Mattu Pongal – In Tamil Nadu Makara Sankranthi is celebrated as Pongal. The day following Pongal festival is known as Mattu Pongal. The day of Mattu Pongal is dedicated for livestock worship. People in rural areas worship cows and bulls and decorate them with different colored items.

The day of Mattu Pongal is notoriously famous for Jallikattu.  Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.”

Today is Maattu Pongal. Happy Maattu Pongal!

On this day, cows everywhere in Tamil Nadu, are celebrated.

Here is a picture of a cow being offered worship in Sri Ramanasramam (Click here for blog source )

asram-cow

The post describes the festival – “Maattu Pongal the third day of the Pongal or Harvest festival is the day consecrated to the cows. Everywhere, on this day, cows are bathed and decorated with flower garlands and then puja is performed to them with offerings of sweet pongal and fruits. In Ramanashram too, it has always been the tradition right from the time of Bhagavan to celebrate Cow Pongal in a graceful way. Devotees will remember that Sri Ramana was very fond of the cow Lakshmi and He used to feed sweet pongal to Lakshmi with his own hands on Cow Pongal day.”

Here is a picture of Ramana Maharshi with a new born calf.

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Indeed, one should witness Maattu Pongal in Tamil Nadu to experience the sheer joy of cooperative joyousness of man and cow. Cows with bells on horns, horns gaily painted, turmeric and kumkuman applied on head and body, garlanded with lovely flowers, and sometimes with garlands of murukku and other eats…. Being offered worship, formally… And being given a Pongal feast…. What a joy…

And as one of the sideshows of this day, happens the Jallikattu…

Why create a ruckus over it?

It is an “exception”.. A safety-valve release of adrenalin…

And what better release than this? Here are a couple of quotes about bullfighting from Ernest Hemingway…

ernest

And one must hasten to add that Jallikattu has a fundamental difference from Spanish bullfighting. In Jallikattu, the players compete to hold and hang on to the hump of the bull, and the one who manages to hold on till the bull reaches the finishing line wins. No ropes, sticks, whips, weapons are used. It is hand to hump sport… (For more info please click this link )

jalli

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So, I think we should take the balanced view on Jallikattu, and understand the context as well… The numbers are not many… Happens once a year, as per tradition… And it is outweighed heavily by the celebration and worship of all cattle that day…

The numbers and cruelty is not even remotely comparable to what is routinely accepted in society when it comes to Butchery of birds and animals for food – day in and day out…. Here is a youtube video of Paul McCartney…

So – if you really want to protest about cruelty to animals, you know where to go…

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Now coming to the matter of Law…

Law is known better as “letter of law”, and is a technical thing. And I am not qualified to speak of that. There are many experts weighing in on that, and we can hear them…

I wanted to share a more general view on Law – from ancient tradition.. And this has nothing to do with Jallikattu specifically.

I have an interest in Indian epics.

Here is a scene from Ramayana…

When Bharata comes to forest to ask Rama to return to Ayodhya… Rama questions him on how the Kingdom administration is being carried on by Bharata. One of the verses is:

कच्चिदष्टादशान्येषु स्वपक्षे दश पञ्च च।
त्रिभिस्त्रिभिरविज्ञातैर्वेत्सि तीर्थानि चारकैः।।

Rama asks Bharata: Do you keep under your surveillance, employing in each case three spies, each unknown to the other and to the rest of the world, the activities of 18 important authorities of other countries and the fifteen of your own?

Now, one of the 18 authorities that Rama is alluding to is one called as “prAdvivAka” – an official of justice.

Who is a prAdvivAka?

Govindaraja’s ‘Bhushana’ commentary on the above Ramayana verse says:

प्राड्विवाक: व्यवहारप्रष्टा । तल्लक्षणमुक्तम्– “विवादे पृच्छति प्रश्नं प्रतिप्रश्नं तथैव च । प्रियपूर्वं प्राग्वदति प्राड्विवाकस्तत: स्मृत: ।।” इति।

(PradvivAka is an examiner of  worldly matters. His characteristic is mentioned as “In a dispute, he asks questions and counter questions. He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”)

(prAd – questions, with vivEka – discerning intellect – and so prAdvivAka)

Now, the fundamental attribute of a person holding the office of prAdvivAka is that he should be a scholar of Dharma Shastra, and a thorough knower of prathA (tradition).

Here is a cut-paste from the Net:

“Raghunandana, the 15th/16th commentator from Bengal and an encyclopaedic author of 28 treatises clearly stated in his discourses on Vyavahara (Vyavahara tattva) that Lokavyavahara or popular custom, convention or the existing social practice enjoyed far superior edge over Sastric norms. He elaborated that if there was a dispute of larger dimension which could not be solved locally, the parties would report to the king or the Zamindar. The king would appoint an expert – Pradviveka (usually Brahmin, but occasionally a ksatriya with exceptional ability) proficient in both Sastric norms and customary practices. He questioned both parties, and after careful consideration he was expected to offer his opinion. Finally, the king would pronounce the final verdict as the supreme authority, though he was expected to ratify Pradviveka’s opinion under usual circumstances.”

So… In our traditional concept of prAdvivAka administering justice, local tradition, custom, practice is extremely important to be understood when viewing what is right or wrong. And our Ancient system of justice provided for it. And please note, Bhushana’s definition mentioned earlier – “He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”… Will the learned courts take note!

So here’s my two rupees (still a valid coin!)

Local tradition has jallikattu. It is a controlled affair, and a part of one day of Pongal harvest festival which is dedicated to celebrating cows. It is a sport. It releases Adrenalin. Let it be. Regulate it, where needed. Let it be an exception to be allowed on a special day. Remember Holi, Diwali etc… Add Pongal…

Some cud to chew…

krishna

Hare Krishna!

 

Kotwal of the Capital – 2

January 3, 2016

Picking up the thread on Swami Prabhudatt Brahmachari ji…

The great sage (Maharajshri) Swami Akhandananda Saraswati has written in his book “Paavan Prasang”, that he considers Swami Prabhudatt Brahmachari to be the one who was instrumental in making him into a public narrator of spiritual Katha. And those in the ‘path’ know that it is to Maharajshri that we owe, in a very large part, the traditions of Bhagavata Katha in the form that we see now, all over India. Brahmachari ji used to hold year-long naama-samkeertan festival in his ashram in Prayag (Jhusi).  He invited Maharajshree to give discourses on Srimad Bhagavatam. It is here that Maharajshree met the great sage Udiya Baba too. (One gets an idea of the great confluence of sages in Brahmachariji’s Jhusi Ashram.)

Maharajshree narrates an incident about Prabhudatt Brahmachari that happened in Ayodhya. After the stay at Jhusi Ashram, Udiya Baba and many of his followers left for Ayodhya, walking. Maharajshree and Brahmachari ji too went with him. In Ayodhya, they found another great scholar-sage, Shri Anjaninandan Sharan, coming to offer traditional welcome to Udiya Baba. (A word about Anjaninandan Sharan ji. He was a high-court lawyer, who later renounced worldly life and retired to Ayodhya, where he compiled the magnum-opus book “Manasi Piyush”. It is a masterly “commentary of commentaries” on Ramacharita Maanas, and has since been brought out as a massive seven-volume set by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. ) Seeing Anjaninandan ji coming, Brahmachariji offered his respects to him by falling on the ground and prostrating to him. Seeing Brahmachariji in front of him, Shri Anjaninandan Sharan too fell on the ground, in prostration to Brahmachariji. Seeing these two sages prostrating, their followers on both sides, threw themselves forthwith on the ground, in prostration. It was an amazing sight. All were on the ground. Only Udiya Baba was standing, and was laughing in merriment.

Just imagine the depth of Bhaava of Brahmachariji, as indeed of Anjaninandanji!

In another context, Swami Venkatesananda, disciple of Swami Sivananda, writes   – “….Prabhudatta Brahmachari, who had quite a number of ashrams in North India. He wanted to do some writing, and felt that he needed complete isolation, undisturbed seclusion; so, he bought himself a houseboat, and anchored it in the middle of the river Ganges. He went on doing his work undisturbed. In the meantime, the ashrams were being run by somebody else.

One day, one of his lieutenants went to see him, and said, “You know, So-and-so who is running the ashram in such and such a place is stealing, cheating, doing this and that!” This holy man heard all that, smiled, and didn’t respond. The man asked him, “What are you going to do about it?” He said, “Nothing. God has not appointed me a magistrate. That is not my job, that is his job.”

Based on the above, one would well think that Brahmachariji would be the last person to include political activism in his ‘job profile’ – and one would think wrong! Even as a youth, he participated in freedom struggle, and was imprisoned several times by the British (once, along with Nehru). Indeed, he was one of those who felt the need to be engaged with political apparatus for causes that he felt right.

In the first elections of free India, he contested as an independent candidate against the great leader, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru! And his election symbol? A boat.

Nehru was aiming to bring sweeping legislative changes in Hindu code, and Brahmachariji took it upon himself to stand against it. And in this stand, he was offered support by Swami Karpatri Maharaj’s party (Akhil Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad) and other Hindu political groups. But all said and done, it was never a real contest, with Nehru having a superstar status in the political stage, and Brahmachariji being a Sadhu who knew little of realpolitik. You can’t observe Mouna and do a political campaign, can you! Brahmachari had as much chance as Nehru would have had, had Nehru challenged Brahmachari to a debate on Brahma Sutra or Upanishads!

But the contest was not without its moments!

Here are some excerpts from an article, ‘Cymbals and Symbols’ – a report that was published in ‘Time’ magazine (issue of Jan 28th, 1952).

“By plane, ship, train, automobile and bullock cart, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had been campaigning all over the country, stirring up votes for India’s four-month-long first general election. He had traveled 23,000 miles, made as many as ten speeches a day, addressed 5 million people. In fact, he had been just about everywhere but in his own constituency in Allahabad. There was no need to canvass Allahabad, he said rather airily.

Last week he got distressing news. His only opponent in Allahabad, 52-year-old Prabhudatt Brahmachari, who wears a luxuriant grey beard, orange-and red-rimmed spectacles, a saffron robe and a long white loincloth, had been quietly building up the vote. Quietly was the word for it: he had done it without uttering a single sound, except an occasional loud laugh.

One Plank. Back in 1921, Brahmachari, like Nehru, came under the spell of Mahatma Gandhi, but Brahmachari became a Sadhu, or holy man. He took vows of silence and celibacy, was jailed several times by the British (once along with Nehru), set up a camp on the banks of River Ganges to study the Hindu epics, and wrote the first 60 volumes of a 180-volume biography of Hindu god Krishna! One day last October he cried out : “Hey nath Narayan!” (meaning, “Oh, Lord God,” the holy man’s only departure from silence). And an attendant brought him his Shaeffer fountain pen and paper. He wrote: “If today I participate in an election, it’s because my inner voice bids me to do so.”

“Nehru, he said, is a ‘black Englishman [who] studied in the West…’

“Holy Man Brahmachari toured Nehru’s constituency in a 1931 Dodge sedan accompanied by a troupe of Hindu singers. To the chanting of Hindu psalms, he danced on the platform, rhythmically tapping a pair of small brass cymbals. A disciple read from a pamphlet he had written…”

“Hearing that Brahmachari’s pamphlet had sold 76,000 copies, Nehru came rushing back to Allahabad last week…”

The article adds – “This week, as Allahabad voters went to the polls, Nehru seemed to have his constituency under control again. The whole country was pretty much his, too.”

In that election, Nehru got 233571 votes, while Prabhudatt Brahmachari got 56718 votes ( click here for election results site )

Here is a picture of Brahmachari, that was carried in the Time article referred above.

 

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He lost the election all right, but never lost his sense of political purpose.

One of the most important causes that seized his heart was the protection of cows.

(Indeed, the deep regard for cows in Indian consciousness can be understood from the fact that the election symbol of the mighty Congress party was a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke. In 1967, the Congress party had a split. While the original party continued with the old symbol, the new faction led by Indira Gandhi chose the symbol of a cow with suckling calf).

Brahmachari was one of the leaders of the movement against Cow-slaughter in India. This became a life-long battle for him with the powers that be. He toured the length and breadth of the country for his campaign. In 1966, he formed SGMS (Sarvadaliya Gorakshana Maha-abhyaan Samiti ) which included people from all sides, even some Congressmen. He announced that a huge Satyagraha would be held on 7th November 1966, followed by a hunger strike. It is estimated that lakhs of people came to Delhi for this Satyagraha. Sadly, the situation turned out of control, there were reports of vandalism, police resorted to firing, resulting in six or seven sadhu-s dying, and many were imprisoned. The Home Minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda, had to resign his post.

In 1967 he went on an indefinite fast on the issue of Cow-slaughter. He broke the fast after 80 days after Government intervened and gave some assurances.

It is said that Prabhudatt Brahmachari had four deep desires

  • To build a temple of Hanuman in Delhi, with a 40 foot tall Hanuman idol
  • To build a temple of Vishnu (60 foot tall idol) in Indraprastha (Delhi – perhaps the Purna kila region)
  • To put an end to cow slaughter
  • Release of Ramjanbhoomi

Of these, there is but one that he could see happen.

The Hanuman in Delhi… The Kotwal of the Capital….

All said and being done, one may agree or not with his political positions. But one cannot deny that he was a great ascetic who sought to bring his voice to bear on the political landscape. And he did that using Gandhian method of non-violent Satyagraha.

Signing off this post with a poster of Paul McCartney (of the Beatles) – lending his golden voice to the cause of the Moo!  (There is this video too of his too, titled “If slaughterhouses had glass” …Click here to see on youtube… )

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Paul mccartney

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** To be continued **

Les Miserables – Chennai pe charcha

December 4, 2015

I would like to keep this short. That said, I would like to start with the rather long opening line of Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”…

Chennai in the Crisis that Had No Name….

How did it feel for me? Pardon me, if I say that this last week was a bit like what one experienced during the tense times of watching 26/11. For us here in Chennai, with no electricity, water-water-everywhere-but-not-that-much-to-drink, pounding-pounding-pounding of non-stop rains, with the knowledge in one’s bones that this one was the real thing – the disaster that we were afraid to even fear… The knowledge that out there, there would be thousands and thousands who would be suffering far more than I, and the feeling of guilt that accompanies that silent knowledge… And then, by the time it was Day 3, and still no signs of end, the desperate question, “is this for real? Is this really happening?”

And when the rains did seem to stop, the deluge that followed… With the waters being released from the bursting catchment lakes…. With sudden rivers flowing through city streets….

And the other city… The noble Chennai… No dhakka-mukka in the few shops that opened up… No sudden sky-rocketing of prices… Ordinary people helping each other… Many going out of their way…. The dignity of India… While it lasts… Surely, this wont last, and soon commerce will take over… As will politics….

Remember, we had no TV. Our phones were out… Most of us were in complete Radio Silence. And when the first crackle of signals did come, there came the SOS-s from friends and relations… Each of us perhaps knew some people, personally, who were marooned with water coming up to first floor… Wanting drinking water, and milk if possible… Even as I write this, I have a cousin’s family whose only mode of transport is by boat, and they have no electricity yet – and they have at least four people at home who are above 80 years of age – and so please don’t say ‘Why can’t they go to Bangalore?’

And again, even as I write this, the rains have started once more.. Maybe just a short and sharp shower… But such has been the pounding of last week, that we shall be suspicious of every shadow of a shower….

Oh I could go on.. But here’s some plea, if I may

Let us, as a nation, get our disaster-management act together…

Do not inundate sufferers with dozens of different agency numbers and options, out of which we hesitate to call any (Take your pick Army, Navy, Boat Agencies. Food relief folks Government Bodies etc etc). Please have ONE number that people should call – and let that number be manned by a Command and Control centre that routes the right relief to the right place.

Take control of communication. People may not have phones working. How do you get messages to them? Have clear and purposeful messages. Get them across. Do not make the sufferer sift for signal from a flood of meaningless noise.

For sure the rescue workers from Army, Navy and other Government agencies did terrific work. Help them by having a well designed Disaster Management Plan. Let each one know exactly what they would be doing. And let there be an overall control mechanism….

As I write this, I see a message in one of my groups where someone is asking – “Can someone suggest what medicines need to be got? One relief truck is coming from Bengaluru”. One more helping hand waving uncertainly…

One more request… This one to news channels.. Please do not come to Chennai and interview people in Hindi (although, I humbly submit ki some of us can match you gaali to gaali in khadi boli) … And if you can, please do not bring in words like Secular etc into this conversation. You agree to that, and I grant you your right to scream from your studios that your channel saved Chennai… And tomorrow (why tomorrow, even today), you may go back to your recently all too familiar ‘Papa beats Momma’ theme of ‘India Intolerance Unlimited’.

mujhe tumse kuch bhi na chahiye
mujhe mere haal pe chhod do
mujhe mere haal pe chhod do


(… ai maalik tere bande hum… )

 

Dilli in waiting…

October 2, 2015

October tip-toes in…

Early morning walk in my customary park…. Summer is surely over, but winter is not yet in… The morning walkers present a somber picture… Tensely quiet… None of the bluster of summer, nor the fight of winter… They walk listlessly, as if they are not sure whether they are waiting to write a will or to inherit from one… There is expectation in their strides, and yet there is resignation in their eyes… Old ladies are sitting on park-benches and cud-chewing some topic or the other in the manner of Goddesses of twilight passing judgments on daylight matters, more out of habit rather than with purpose…. Girls (Ladies), young and old, are doing yoga, holding poses, stopping time, looking at the sky, locking their eyes on some unseen God, who, surely, would blink first… A cluster of senior citizens are standing in a circle and doing their own thing – clapping hands, doing some stretches, and ending up with Laughter Asana, laughing HA-HA-HA-HA in unison, thrice… Each time louder than the previous time… They know that time shall have the last laugh… So HA HA HA…

The shrubs are displaying the last flowers of the season… Take-it-or-leave-it blossoms…

Walking along two elders chat about “nothing lasts”. “Let us take this walk. Who knows how many cells have died in our body, and how many born since we started this walk. In fact, the whole blood stream is completely replaced every six months…” says, one to the other. “Yes, yes, that is why three months average is best measure of blood sugar” says the other to the one. They both heartily agree, and say “HbA1C”, in one voice, like two children trying out a nice new word… Rumpelstiltskin…

88! (“Two fat ladies!”, shout the Tambola criers, when they announce the number 88.) Well, two eights are walking, and one tells another, about a third 8 who is not present – “uskee Thyroid problem hai… That is why itnee soojee hui hai … (She has a thyroid problem. That is why she is so bloated).

Two kids playing shuttle cock… Up and down, back and forth, like a tease of time…

A couple of stray dogs are basking in the sun. One is on his back, legs up in the air, allowing the Sun to gaze at his navel. And the other sits a short distance away, unconcerned, examining his own fur, as if checking if they are ok for the coming winter…

The wide lawns are covered by a dew carpet. Looks like moisturizer spread across earth’s skin that is soon going dry …

Mortality is in the air… Every creature is transacting from a perch of frailty… Winds are holding their breath…

Life now, seems like this flower in the park… Streaks of color… The white of age…

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दिनयामिन्यौ सायं प्रातः
शिशिरवसन्तौ पुनरायातः ।
कालः क्रीडति गच्छत्यायुः
तदपि न मुञ्चत्याशावायुः ॥

Day and night, dusk and dawn
Winter and spring, on and on…
Time sports , Life runs away,
Yet no respite from desire-storm sway..

Hickery, Dickery, Dock!

Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 39

July 1, 2014

4rd July , 2013

We are at the monastery of Darchen.

Had we not been tied to our committed tour  – had we had, instead, the freedom to float with winds of tradition – we would have found ourselves going to Tirthapuri from here. This is an ancient pilgrimage spot by the banks of the Sutlej river, situated some 70 kms west of Darchen. Tradition has it that the kora of Kailasa is complete only by visiting Tirthapuri. This is a place known for its hot springs, and hence the name – Tirthapuri – the place of holy waters.. Pilgrims traditionally bathe here after completing their circuit of Mt Kailasa.

Swami Bikash Giri tells us that the spring water is piping hot.

See for yourself… A photo from the Net ( Click her for photo source)

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Tirthapuri-1

But no worries. Water is led to bathing pools nearby, where it cools off….

In the region of Kailasa, this is yet another place that has retained its old Sanskrit name. Hindu tradition has it that this was the place where the demon Bhasmasura was burnt to ash. Indians who have a mind for mythology would remember the story of Bhasmasura that they would have heard as children. Bhasamasura was a Rakshasa, who performed tremendous austerities to please Lord Siva. Lord Siva, who is famed for being pleased with ease, appeared in front of the Rakshasa and offered him any boon that he may seek. The demon asked for immortality. Siva told him that that was a state that was not possible to be conferred and asked him to seek another boon. The demon asked Siva that he may be granted the power of burning anyone by placing his hand on their head. Siva gave him that boon. To test the boon, the demon attempted to place his hand on Siva himself! Siva ran from him, and the demon gave him chase. Siva appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu took the form of Mohini, the enchantress – a lady of supreme beauty. The demon was enamored by the sight. Vishnu, as Mohini, led the demon on a song and dance, and finally managed to cajole the demon to promise his love by keeping his hand on his own head. The result was that the demon burned himself, and was reduced to ash. This is said to have happened here, at Tirthapuri.

These hot springs here are surrounded by white limestone terraces… White layers get deposited on the bed of the hot springs, and this breaks up into powdery ash…These are associated with ash of Bhasmasura.

The area of Tirthapuri has beautiful hills that are white-red mix of colors.

Like this… ( Photo Source  )

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tirtha_puri2

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Swami Bikash Giri says that there are several caves here that are suitable for staying…For Buddhists, this place is hallowed with the memory of Padmasambhava and his consort. There is a cave here where he stayed and meditated on Yama – the God of death. Later, this cave was used by the great sage Milarepa as well. Now, a building covers this cave…

A photo from the Net ( Click here for source )

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yama-cave-tirthapuri`

Like in Kailasa, there is a kora of the hill of Tirthapuri. A short kora that takes about an hour or so. There is a cremation point as well, like Shiva sthal. There is a point corresponding to Drolma La, which is marked with mani stones and yak bones. Along the trail comes the monastery of Tirthapuri. Near this place is a prayer wheel which has a karma-testing point. This is in the form of a hole in the ground. You reach in and pull out two stones. If both the stones are white, then your karma is great; your Kailasa Yatra is complete. If one stone is white and one black – then you are ok too. If both are black, well, then your karma needs some more working on. And it would be a good idea to come back and do the Kailasa Kora again…

Incidentally, Tirthapuri is in the ancient route that Indian pilgrims took to Kailasa – which was from Mana Pass, to Tholinga Mutt and via Tirthapuri to Kailasa.

But then we are in the post modern era. And we have no time for Tirthapuri….

Lets come back to where we were… On the 4th of July 2013…

We  have completed the third day of the Kora and are at the monastery transit rooms at Darchen. Yatri-s are slowly coming to earth, and trying to stoke the familiar furnace of their minds. At this point in time, cordiality and brotherhood marks the embrace of re-surfacing individualities. A co-yatri offers Soota some holy water collected at Gauri Kund. Dash, the teenage whiz, is quite the favorite among the yatri-s. Being who he is, he is a happy, friendly young man who has endeared himself to many yatri groups during the course of the Kora. One elderly lady is gratefully telling one and all, that it was Dasarath, the boy, sent by Lord Siva, who had saved her during the second day of the Kora. My own friend and co-yatri Siva, who had suffered injury during the kora, was helped along at a crucial time by Dash. High five to dash the American kid.

Talking of which, there were several American NRI-s in the Yatri group. Dash is happily greeting them with “Happy Independence Day, Uncle” greetings. It is July the 4th after all – the American independence day…

We start from Darchen after lunch time.

After an hour or perhaps an hour more (who knows time now) we alight once more at the shores of Manasarovar. The lap of our mother. Like a soldier returning home from the war-front… After a war with one’s mind and senses. No heroes here… Soota is like a bard who had been drafted to the army and has somehow survived to tell the tale… He has been more of a witness than a combatant. Silenced by Siva, he is back at the serene shores of the lake of the pure mind – Manasarovar

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It is sometime in the afternoon , early evening, when we arrive at Maanas. This time we are at a different camping site. This is on the other side of the lake, opposite side of the first camping site near Chiu Gompa. The camp we are in is rather primitive compared to the Chiu Gompa one. That was a proper brick structure. This one is has metal container kind of room boxes. But looks cosy. The room we are in has a picture of Satya Sai Baba hanging on the wall. He is omnipresent. Soota is happy.

The itinerary says we stay here overnight and commence journey the next day.

As the minds of Yatri-s warm up, there is a natural gravitation towards the pull of Kali Yuga. Kali Purusha, the personification of this age is at work, and grumblings have started in the larger group. The tour operators have planted the idea that the group may skip staying here tonight and start off. Which means they can perhaps reach one day earlier to Kathmandu. For reasons good and bad, many yatri-s jump for it. Some yatri-s are genuinely sick and are shuddering at the thought of spending the night in the sure-to-be-freezing metal-box quarters. There are others who are in the mood of ‘been there and done that’ and just want to get the hell out of here fast. . A sub-group has negotiated separately with the organizers and have already left without saying Good-bye to anyone. And then there are others (like us) who’d rather stick to the itinerary and stay the evening and night at Manasarovar. Arguments fly… Tempers are flaring… Kali Yuga laughs.

Leaving Kali Purusha to his games, Soota and Shankar move to the waters of Manasarovar. It’s a long walk from the transit quarters to the lake. They walk into the lake. The slope is gentle. Walking in some twenty steps or more, they stop and have many a nice, cold, whole body dip. Divine. Why would anyone want to go from here a minute earlier than absolutely needed?

A picture of Shankar… He looks cool, doesn’t he? Armed with the fire of Agni Sahasranama, he is immune to cold….

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Shankar is not feeling fulfilled… He is feeling rather incomplete because we could not get good darshan of Kailasa peak during the kora. The poor weather and constant cloud cover has all but hidden the great peak from our eyes – except for the times at Manasarovar and Dirapuk. He would like to go right back to Darchen and start off on another Kora. If he could, he surely would. Perhaps he is destined to do another kora, another time…

And here’s Shankar with his better half Usha. But for them, Soota would not have been on this Yatra. It is they who more or less bundled him like one piece of baggage and brought him along. Kailasa Yatra is something people plan for years and prepare for months. And here is Soota, with but a month’s notice, brought along on this holiest of yatra-s by this couple.

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Their teenage son Dash is standing by the shore but refuses to come anywhere near the water. Yuck – he says – the shore is so dirty. He is an American kid. Not for him the joys of ritual baths in icy waters. You’d catch a disease, he’d say… He’d rather snatch his father’s SLR camera and make it sing some beautiful time-elapse pictures of the distant peak of Kailasa. More power to his talents… One of these days, he will find a venture capitalist who is willing to fund his two score and three ideas – and then he will just fly away to the valley of silicon… One day, he will become a billionaire. But right now, he’s stuck with tight-fisted Hindu parents…. Ugh…

Half a dozen other yatri-s also make their way to the lake and decide to bathe in the holy waters. They are clear that they are in no mood to change the tour itinerary. They want to stay the night at Maanas as planned.

Shankar and Soota are enjoying the waters of Manasarovar… They fill their canisters with Maanas water. Soota has brought his canister from India – one used for Ganga Jal earlier… Tested one.. Shankar has bought his canisters in Darchen. As did many other yatri-s. And that was a mistake. While the canister looked neat, it was of poor quality. More about that later.

Neither Shankar nor Soota know anything about Tirthapuri, or about the karma testing method there… They are at Maanas… The mother of all Tirtha-s….

Standing in the lake, they decide to pick up holy stones to take back to India… Saying, “Om Nama Sivaya”, without glancing at what they are picking up, they pick up stones… The stone that Soota picks up is white… The stone Shankar picks up is black.. The black one looks beautiful… Soota picks up again… White again… Shankar picks up another.. Black again… This is repeated once more… And the results are the same… Dull white – Soota… Bright and black – Shankar…

Looks like Shankar’s wish is going to be fulfilled after all… The stones bless him with the good fortune of another kora of Kailasa!

Namo Sati Devi! Namo Devi Bhadra Kali!  Namo Devi Tara! Namo Drolma Devi!

Om Nama Sivaya!

*** To be continued ***

 

Kedar Baba – A year after

June 25, 2014

Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya!

It was on the night of June 16 2013 that Kedarnath was hit by that fateful flood that brought in its wake unprecedented  disaster in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Kedarnath itself saw death on a colossal scale. Worship at the shrine of Kedareshwar could be recommenced only in September 2013. And now, this summer, pilgrims have been allowed to come here again.

One of Kailasa Yatra co-yatri-s is now on Char Dham yatra. And she visited Kedarnath and whatsapped some pictures.

Here is the shrine of Kedarnath.. On 20th June 2014. Click on the  picture…. And just gaze at it…

 

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Isn’t it ever so beautiful….

Many of you may know about the story of the rock that saved the shrine of Kedarnath from being washed away by the floods of last June.

Here is what Wikipedia entry on Kedarnath , says:

The Kedarnath valley, along with other parts of the state of Uttarakhand, was hit with unprecedented flash floods on 16 and 17 June 2013. On June 16, 2013, at about 7:30 p.m. a landslide and mudslides occurred near Kedarnath Temple with loud peals of thunder. An enormously loud peal was heard and huge amount of waters started gushing from Chorabari Tal or Gandhi Tal down Mandakini river at about 8:30 p.m. washing everything away in its path. The next day on the 17th of June, 2013 at about 6:40 a.m. in the morning waters again started cascading at a huge speed from river Swaraswati and Chorabari Tal or Gandhi Tal bringing along with its flow huge amount of silt, rocks and boulders. A huge boulder got stuck behind Baba Kedarnath Temple and protected it from the ravages of the flood’s fury. The flood waters gushed on both the sides of the temple destroying everything in their path. Another theory that is told about the story of the temple not being destroyed is of the construction of the temple. Although the temple withstood the severity of the floods, the temple complex and surrounding area were destroyed, resulting in the death of hundreds of pilgrims and locals. Shops and hotels in Kedarnath were destroyed and all roads were broken. A number of people took shelter inside the temple for several hours, until Indian army airlifted them to safer places. The Uttarakhand Chief Minister announced that the Kedarnath shrine would remain closed for a year for clearing the debris around the shrine.

Some eye witness observed that, one large rock that got carried up to the temple in flood water and settled at the rear side of the Kedarnath Temple, thus causing obstruction to the debris, diverting the flow to the sides of the temple avoiding possible damage.”

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Here is a picture of that rock that came with the flood waters and anchored itself right behind the temple..

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Here is another view…

From farther back…

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Devotees of Kedar Baba have named this rock as Divya Bheem Shila – or Divine rock of Bheema.

When the temple was reopened for worship last year, the priests offered worship at this rock too. This rock has now become a part of the Kedarnath temple sanctity.

The rock has got anchored some thirty feet away, right behind the main shrine. It is around 20 feet wide and 12 feet or so tall. Stands as a sentinel against the wrath of waters.

One more pictures… A side view…As you can see, an object of veneration…

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Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya! Nama kimshilaaya cha kshayanaaya cha!

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti: !

A Dilli Inter-lewd

March 16, 2014

Dilli… Saturday, March 15… Evening…

Tis the fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight, waxing moon…. Chaudween ka chaand…

Right above the canopy of King George near India Gate..

Chaudhween ka chand

Chaudhween ka chand

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This is the canopy where stood a marble statue of King George the Fifth, in the 1960s.,.. Later the statue was removed and housed elsewhere.. There were rumors that a Gandhi statue (that of the Mahatma) would be housed in this canopy… But that did not happen… And mercifully the powers have left this arch empty of any other politician…

The canopy is right in line with India Gate, and Rashtrapathi Bhavan… The Rajpath, the way of the King….

Here are some pictures (cell phone taken, please forgive jee) of yesterday evening’s walk around that place… Click, and use arrows to browse, Esc to return….

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So that was yesterday, the Chaudween ka chaand day…

Ravi and I had hired a ‘half-day-taxi’ …40 kms, Rs 600 only plus parking fees… And parking fees in Delhi is a chota-mota scam… In South Delhi its going to cost 100 Rs per hour, it seems… Jai ho! I loot you, you loot someone else, and so up it goes, till someone loots the whole nation, and so it comes right back to me, and I loot someone, and he loots someone else….. The virtuous cycle of nation milking…

As we drove from outside to inside Dilli – from outer of outer ring road, to inside of inner ring road – from the fringes of the circular parallel economy to the heart of the engine, the oxygen was like a gentle high.. Like a journey from the obnoxious to the noxious… Waiting at red lights like dogs on leash, the engines growled… Peering at fellow drivers in vehicles alongside, one could not help wondering who was carrying whom? Was the car carrying the driver or was it the other way… The car folks who were driving looked like they were perfectly capable of getting off, picking up the car over their head, and hurling it above and across the overpass in front, and running and catching it on the other side… There was this surefire macho aggressiveness… The way they held the steering wheel, leaning onto it, ‘putting their weights behind the wheel’… The way they glared as they waited… Or pumped up the volume of clang-clang-dance music from their car stereos..

“Ah dilli… I said” to Ravi…”Killers! Sure, they all look like they could murder… no?” I asked Ravi

“Arrey naheen… They are normal… Not like you Chennai ch***s…. You f(*&%s are timid… We are normal… Normal people, who are ready for a fight, if it comes to it, which it might anytime, anywhere..”

With some more prodding, he elaborated… “I mean, we are not like you southies… Wearing marks of divinity, behind which you hide your haram ki kamaai… I mean we tell you straight “I AM BAD. DON’T MESS WITH ME.”, as we go about our daily business of ‘aaj ka loot’. And if someone were to try to do us in, we are ready for it, and we will stab him first… Rest (baaki) will be seen later (baad mein dekhi jayegi)… *&%^$# #%*!@~ (choice expletives)”…

Ah Soota is home….He now thinks favorably of all…. And that includes the news anchors of national television channels – even the English ones… Everyone is doing dhandhaa after all… Depending on where you are in the ‘virtuous cycle of nation milking’, you extract your share of hafta-moola… And if that means running over someone, so be it… Everyone and everyone’s uncle is krantikari… Bahut krantikari…. 

Six months ago, when he had come before the Dilli state elections, he had seen a surge of broom – the jhaadoo of aap (See this post “Dilli mein parivartan”…).. This time around, with national elections around the corner, the sweep seems  to be somewhat subdued… It looks like the common man has re-realized that it is each man for himself in this canine eat canine race of rodents… And oh what fun it is to run with a one horse open sleigh… Hey, Jhingal bell, Jhingal bell, Jhingal aaaalll the way….

And the way leads to Bengali market for Soota… To the sweet house…. Where the sight of the well endowed सेट , eating his own restaurant food as he completely mans the counter, counting thousand-rupee notes with a professional slickness…The sight is so endearing.. One regains faith in timeless Hindustan… Oh the मिठाई का मेला… Folks of all age – from kids to nonagenarians… All coming in here to give a party to their taste buds… That special masala that goes into giving छोले  that taste which you cannot find elsewhere in Delhi… Like that other shop in Darya Gung where Samosa-s are the world’s best.. These are khaandaani halwaai-s…. This is real India…. Jai Ho!

And now, to this morning… The morning of 16th March…. A walk in the park…

Winter is all but gone…. The last kiss lingers still… Some trees are still bare, and stand aloof like ascetics in meditation…. Spring is announcing its presence… Some flower beds are smiling… Blossoms looking at the Sun…

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As he walks in the public park, Soota breathes the spirit of Dilli… Not too many people around. Maybe because of Holi season (Holi tomorrow)… But there are enough folks.. And almost all of them are wearing track suits ( the pants)… They are dressed for the occasion… An old man walks ahead of Soota, his cap emblazoned with the word “WOLVERINE”…

Bhaunkh! Bhaunkh! Yeh, Dilli hai!

Siachen

December 1, 2013

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा हिन्दोसिताँ हमारा
हम बुलबुलें हैं इसकी यह गुलसिताँ हमारा

Better than the entire world, is our Hindostan!
We are its nightingales, and it (is) our garden abode!

परबत वह सबसे ऊँचा, हम्साया आसमाँ का
वह संतरी हमारा, वह पासबाँ हमारा

That tallest mountain, that shade-sharer of the sky,
It (is) our sentry, it (is) our watchman!

(So sang the great poet Iqbal, in his immortal poem – “saarey jahan se accha…”)

Welcome to the Himalaya!

Here are some pictures, shared by a friend of mine… It is of one of the most difficult frontiers of our country…. The region of Siachen… This is in the Karakoram range of the Himalaya….Where there is a Military presence, at heights of over 6000 metres (20,000 feet)… What can we say about the soldiers who are stationed there, guarding our borders, ‘woh santree hamara, woh pasbaan hamara!”….

At the lower reaches of this region…. A narrow pass….

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This is the region… The beautiful land of snow… The Himalaya…. 

Click on the pictures to get a larger view…

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A make-and-shift landing area…

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Brave soldiers guard stand as sentinels. My friend says that, at least now, the soldiers have been equipped with better attire to face the cold…

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I was reading about this attire a few days ago, in a news item on the Net (Click here to read the whole article)… Quote from that – “Army has provided latest Swiss winter gear including trousers, jackets and gloves to jawans deployed in places such as Siachen Glacier to enable them brave temperatures that even go below minus 50 degree Celcius.”

Boy, oh Boy! Minus 50 *&^%$ degress (*&^% celcius… Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

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A local source of water….

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So hostile is the environment that any number of soldiers have died because of the harsh cold…. And then there is combat, of course…

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Want to see a few pictures of daily drills?

Here is one…

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And here, friends, is another… Hold your breath…

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And we folks sit in our zones of great comfort… How can we ever thank these men in uniform!

यूनान-व-मिस्र-व-रूमा सब मिट गए जहाँ से
अब तक मगर है बाक़ी नाम-व-निशाँ हमारा

कुछ बात है कि हस्ती मिटती नहीं हमारी
सदियों रहा है दुश्मन दौर-ए-ज़माँ हमारा

इक़्बाल! कोई महरम अपना नहीं जहाँ में
मालूम क्या किसी को दर्द-ए-निहाँ हमारा!

In a world in which ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome have all vanished without trace
Our own attributes (name and sign) live on today.

Such is our existence that it cannot be erased
Even though, for centuries, the cycle of time has been our enemy.

Iqbal! We have no confidence in this world
What does any one know of our hidden pain?

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Signing off this post, with this photo…

The “grave of the unknown soldier”.

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(Verses and translation of ‘saarey jahan se accha’ are from this link in Wikipedia. Click to see)

Bharat Mata Ki Jai!

Birdsong

November 10, 2013

Last month in Delhi… At Lodhi Gardens…

I went to a particular walking path which is lined by a nice growth of trees, thick with leaves… This has been a favorite place for me… Thirty years ago, I used to come here many an evening…. Half an hour or so before sunset, the trees here would come alive with bird sounds… Hundreds of birds would settle themselves in this grove and chatter away till the sun went down, after which the thicket would fall silent….

Now thirty years later… When I went there, the song was still on… God knows how many generations of birds had carried on this chatter in the grove…

Managed to catch some of the chatter in my cell phone…

Join the audience… The still picture in the backdrop is one of the tombs in the garden… Lit up in the evening…

Play, and catch the song….

Mahakumbhabhishekam @ Ramanasramam – 2013

September 1, 2013

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya!

Today, September 1, is Advent Day of Sri Ramana Maharshi. It was on this day in 1896 that young Venkatraman, carried by the flood of Arunachala’s grace, arrived at Arunachala / Thiruvannamalai, once and for all…

Let us travel to Arunachala, shall we….

Some pictures first from the Kumbhabhishekam function at Sri Ramanasramam, that was concluded on August 25th 2013… Pictures start with some scenes from the ‘Walk Around Siva” Giripradakshanam that one did on the previous day… And then moves on to the Homa and Kumbhabhishekam the next day.

And after the gallery below, check out some videos, three from this function… And one from over seventy years ago.

Jai Ho! Let us move on….

Click on the first picture and browse the gallery…

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The video clips now…

First one, a clip from the Homa done on 25th Morning.

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Next…

After the pouring of sanctified waters on the kalasha on top of the towers (Gopuram), Abhishekam is performed at the Siva Linga in the Ramaneshvara shrine….. The Ramaneshvara Mahalingam..

A video clip of that…

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And now…

The official video coverage of the function, released on youtube by Sri Ramanasramam… By His grace, yours truly too is seen for a brief few seconds, somewhere along the way…

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This great good fortune of appearing in a Ramanasrama footage is a legacy from my grandfather, Dr Vaidyanathan. He is seen in the December 1948 Archival film of Ramanasramam, when the Asram was celebrating 69th Jayanthi (Birthday) of Bhagavan Ramana.

Here is that clip.

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Om Vachadbhuve Namaha!

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya!